Beware of Finger Pointing!

Dawson, our "sweet and innocent" (usually sweet, but not always innocent! 👱) four-year-old grandson, was recently disciplined by his thirteen-year-old sister, Chloe. She often plays the part of the "mother hen" when charged with childcare duties while her parents are virtually teaching. "Daws" later protested to his mother by explaining, "You won't believe this!  Chloe put me in time out and I really wasn't that naughty!" We love this kid's creative flair for expressing himself! He just may grow up to be a politician... or a preacher!

I've seen some televised images of adults at play during these early days of "unofficial summer" who are attempting to finesse their way around the need for social distancing. It appears that after weeks and months of social shutdown, the tidal wave of pent-up anger could not be held back any longer. Bill McKenzie, a local professional therapist, had an interesting interpretation of what is going on when he commented, "(These reactions) may not be as much about politics as they appear on the surface. I see them as a psychological symptom of people 'mad' to connect with the people they love"  [Bill was using the term idiosyncratically, like 'ready to connect.'] (Equilibrium and Resilience: The Shelter-in-Place Experience, virtual symposium sponsored by the Chiara Center, Springfield).
Beware of Finger Pointing!
Image compliments of pixabay.com

In the context of this Coronavirus Pandemic,  there's such a readiness or "madness" to connect that some are recklessly "acting out" due to fatigue, frustration, anxiety and even anger over all the protocols, stages of re-engagement and restrictions that government officials have mandated. It could be argued that when we are this anxious and upset, we will look for a release in the satisfaction of our social connections with family and friends.

Some folks are "good and mad!" You can sense it and see it in these days. But are they really being good in the socially responsible sense? And are their expressions of anger more defiant than showing deference? And pointedly, are these actions that look to many of us as selfish and uncaring, going to result in adverse consequences for those who may be vulnerable to the ravages of this virus? Will the demands for pleasure in this moment set us back in the months and years ahead? Many experts are telling us that this version of coronavirus may be with us for years even if we discover a vaccine! Acting without social consciousness is not going to serve the greater good of the human family!

What does the Bible have to say about anger? The Scriptures offer clear instruction regarding the expression of this strong emotion:  "In your anger do not sin" (Ps. 4:4; Eph. 4:26 NIV). There is an assumption that we will get angry at times. but James further warns, "Everyone should be... slow to become angry" (Ja. 1:19). Anger in itself is a dangerous strategy to solving anything. It can lead to sin so quickly.

If we choose to be angry, it certainly has to come from the right motive, be focused on the right things and be under the control of the Holy Spirit. A "controlled burn" like righteous indignation should be the goal, because anger without the fruit of self-control is "contrary to the Spirit." Paul summarizes, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Ro. 12:21). He also instructed, "Let us not become weary in doing good" (Gal. 6:9).

Jesus was always good even when He became angry. He modeled the right approach when He overturned the money changers' tables in the Temple. All four gospels record this encounter (Jn. 2:13-16; Mt. 21:12-16; Mk. 11:15-18; Lk. 19:45-47). The corruption and social injustice represented here called for a strong response by the Son of God. Jesus got "good and mad" when He saw the selfishness of the Temple merchants and the commercial distraction their practices had become in the very setting that should have promoted worship. The indictment was clear! "My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a 'den of robbers'"(Mt. 21:13).

Though many of us are trying to manage our pent-up anger and frustration at various levels due to our situations with no income, no work, no school, no graduations, no friends or family gatherings, no funerals or marriages, no sports to play or watch, no travel and no family trips for recreation, and dozens of other "no's!" We still have to do this in a way that leads us to better outcomes. We cannot afford an exploding reaction that results in lethal emotional shrapnel that harms our most important social relations.

And... I have to keep telling myself not to be judgmental of others who react in ways I don't understand. When I point my finger at them, I have three digits pointing back at me!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor,
active churchman and
doting grandparent.
Contact: drmjkeppler@gmail.com






Comments

  1. Much like the Peace prayer attributed to Francis of Assisi, we are challenged that "it is better to understand, than be understood." This self-emptying mirrors that of Jesus whose life was marked by this quality. Your writing helps give good people permission to be mad in accord with the social covenant that is inherent in Christianity and other great world religious paths. With regards to what happened to George Floyd up in Minneapolis, I'm tending a slow-burn with my rake (conscience) and have the hose (restraint) nearby when my anger flares up. Thank you for great writing here Mike.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Dan! Your good work through the Chiara Center is a blessing! Many are grieving in anger with what has happened in Minneapolis and elsewhere!

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  2. I appreciate Mike's biblical perspective on anger. The scripture didn't warn us to not be angry, but to not allow our anger to lead us to sin. I can't say that I have mastered this concept. It is good to know that we can be like Jesus even when we are mad.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Mark! We’re on the journey together!

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